‘What makes Melrose Festival is its people…’

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COMMUNITY and family involvement have made the Melrose Festival the success it has been for more than 70 years, and will ensure its future.

That was the message from this year’s guest orator, Rob Moffat. For the past 14 years, Mr Moffat has worked for the Scottish Rugby Union, most recently as head coach of the Edinburgh professional side.

Melrosian in 1980, Mr Moffat, just appointed head of sport for Dollar Academy, told the large crowd in the sunlit grounds of Melrose Abbey on Thursday night that the invitation to be this year’s orator was a great honour.

“My wife, Sue and I, were in Prague recently and saw some beautiful buildings, great architecture and learned of their history, and you will all have similar experiences and memories of your travels.

“But our town has a great history and, worldwide, people know the abbey, the Tweed, the Eildons and the Greenyards are synonymous with Melrose.

“It is oor ain toon, it is the best toon and though we wander far o’er the wide, wide world, our heart still lingers there.

“We are very fortunate to have this place as our home and be part of its famous culture and tradition. What, in my opinion, is more important when looking at the past is the characters that have made our town and community.

“For me, growing up in the metropolis of Darnick was a great privilege, but it was the quality of the people who made the place – John Barron, Stotting Robbie at the grammar school, Halliburton – who swept the streets – Adam Crawford in the town, Stuart Henderson at the rugby club and many more.

“None more so than my mum and dad. The Crawfords, Browns and Bunyans were a major part of the fabric of Melrose and these families are still very much to the fore in Melrose today.

“Our festival has a short history – 1936 was the year of the first festival, with the first queen, Hilda Ross, crowned a year later and the first Melrosian, John Frater, in 1938.

“The festival has remained similar over the years but major additions such as the rideout in 1966 and the bike ride in 2001 have added to a strong base.

“The history of the festival since 1936 is important, but not as important as the people who have made the festival each year.

“Well done to Queen Kirsty and to Thea, Bethany, Orla, Freya, Jack, Patrick, Finlay and George. You are all very much part of the festival. Enjoy being part of the festival – whether it was following the rideout, being in the fancy dress, on the bike ride, or simply supporting the Melrosian and Queen and her Court.

“I am preaching to the converted because you are involved by supporting here tonight. You are all very much part of this club – our festival is a big club.”

Mr Moffat said the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton had shown how desperate people were in the UK to have something to celebrate and bring them together, particularly in a time of economic doom and gloom.

He said Melrose residents were very fortunate to have a party every year in June, for that was what the festival was.

“When we are enjoying this annual celebration, it is a good time for us to stop and reflect how fortunate we are to live here and be part of this culture,” he continued.

“Look around you – what a fantastic setting. But more important are the people round you and the people in this town.

“What makes Melrose and its festival – which is a big club – special, is the quality of people in this town and in this club.

“Our festival is about the whole community and a club is about all its members.

“Visitors to the town – welcome. Please come back. because we want to share our town and our festival with you.

“Guests and friends from neighbouring towns – best wishes to all the common ridings and festivals this year. Have a great summer.

“The future – what next? As a youngster, I never thought I’d be on the platform as a herald, then I never thought I’d be Melrosian and I never thought that I’d be giving the oration.

“The future of Melrose and the festival is in our hands – your hands.

“We are all members of this inclusive club – the festival club. It’s probably the biggest we will be part of and we have life membership.

“We don’t want silent partners in this organisation, we want a vibrant set-up with everyone contributing in their own way to the success and propserity of the festival.

“Whatever you do in the future or wherever you go, try and work for the betterment of the festival. You will get a lot of enjoyment out of the various activities during festival week. But please put a lot of yourself and effort into it – as Winston Churchill aptly said : ‘We make a living by what we can get, but we make a life by what we give.’.

“We have had our festival for 75 years. In the next 75 years, I don’t think that the abbey, the Eildons, the Tweed or even the Greenyards will move or change.

“So what will make the next era of our festival – our club – will be the people, you and your families.

“The future of Melrose and the festival is rosy because of you – the people of Melrose. Respect the past, enjoy the present, but help build a great future for the town and the Melrose Festival.”

Melrosian accepts ‘great honour’

MELROSE Festival joint chairman, Douglas Hardie, installed Melrosian Ruaridh Nairn with his official sash of office.

The Melrosian said as long as he could remember, it had been a great desire to represent his home town.

“To follow in the footsteps of my father and grandfather – I have realised that ambition tonight,” he said. “I fully appreciate this great honour being appointed Melrosian. It is the greatest honour to which a young man of this town can aspire.”

Pledging to carry out his duties to the best of his abilities, the Melrosian added: “Nothing will compare to riding up Melrose High Street and hearing you, the people of Melrose, cheering me on.”

The 2008 Melrosian, Scott Roy, was then presented with his Ex-Melrosian’s Rosette by Penny Hardie, wife of the chairman.

She also presented the Silver Jubilee Melrosian, Stewart Bunyan, with his medal to mark his 25th anniversary, and Golden Jubilee Melrosian. Rob Hastie – who has lived in Perth, Australia for the past 43 years – with the traditional gift from the festival.

Festival Queen Kirsty Davidson was then crowned by Sue Moffat, wife of the guest orator, while Mr Hardie presented bouquets to Silver Jubilee Queen Wendy (Barker) Scott and to Golden Jubilee Queen Joan (Burnett) Brown.

Left-Hand Man, Ex-Melrosian Clark Eaton-Turner gave the vote of thanks before the Melrosian, Festival Queen and her Court toured the town on the traditional triumphal procession.